Prior to the sinking of its collieries in the 1870’s, Bedlinog was a small farming community called Cwmfelin (Mill Valley). It was triangular in shape with three quite separate clusters of cottages. At one end of the base lay Cwmfelin, near where a chapel, Salem (1830) was built and where the village square and Inn soon appeared. About a mile away, another small settlement known as Coli, housed the early miners who worked in the small drifts driven into the mountain side. Near the top of the hill was Llwyn Crwyn (Round Grove) where Bedlinog colliery was sunk in 1874. In the following years Bedlinog grew into a close knit community of miners and their families; the village itself expanded rapidly with public houses, schools and places of worship being built. Moriah 1876, Gosen 1885, soar 1899 and St Cadocs in 1911.
During the early 1930’s, industrial unrest and social militancy at nearby Taff Merthyr colliery brought Bedlinog to the nation’s attention. The struggle was on behalf of the miner’s union, the South Wales Miners’ Federation and the democratic rights of its members. The owners of Taff Merthyr were insisting that its employees join a Company Union known as the ‘Scab Union’. Serious rioting occurred and a number of local people received prison sentences, but, by the end of the 1930s Company Unionism had been defeated at Taff Merthyr and the South Wales Miners Federation had regained the initiative in the coalfield. The Communist Party had gained a substantial number of converts in the village and the valleys where a sense of anger and bitterness remained for many years.
High above the village on Carn y Bugail (The Shepherd’s Cairn) are several cairns or burial places over 3,000 years old. The well-known leaning stone Carre-fain-hir (long slender stone) is from the 8th century A.D. while excavations near Coli Uchaf Farm have revealed the existence of a farmstead from the same period.
Some famous people from the village include, the Rev Gwilym Davies CBE. MA son of the Minister of Salem Chapel, who was the founder of the ‘Peace Message of the Children of Wales to the Children of the World’ first broadcast in 1922 and now undertaken by the Urdd Gobaith Cymru, the Welsh League of Youth.; Ieuan Evans became a soccer player for Merthyr Town, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Wales, Cyril Walters played cricket for Glamorgan, Worcestershire and England and Gareth Williams played rugby for Bridgend, The Barbarians, Wales and the British Lions. Wilfred Jones spent 28 years with the Covent Garden Opera Company whilst Walter Haydn Davies MA. Headmaster of Bargoed Grammar School wrote a number of books on Bedlinog and the surrounding area.
There are a number of suggestions as to the origin of the name Bedlinog the most popular being Beddllwynog – Grave of the Fox and Bedw-llwynog- Birchgrove. The name Bedd llynog, Cynon’s Grave has also been suggested, Cynon being a 6th century Celtic saint
The original name for this district was Bontnewydd (Newbridge); the later and current name refers to a local farmer, William Lewis. Trelewis grew and developed through the late 19th century as a small community of mining families, dependent in the main on the neighbouring Deep Navigation Colliery in Treharris, sunk in the 1870s. During the 20th century new collieries opened on the northern outskirts of Trelewis with the Taff Merthyr in 1926 and Trelewis Drift in 1954. With these developments the village became a large, lively community, justly proud of its coal mining traditions and achievements.
In the aftermath of the 1926 general strike, the Taff Merthyr became a clash point of bitterness and unrest. The mine owners insisted that no members of the South Wales Miners’ Federation could be employed at this new pit and they set up a company union which the miners were expected to join in order to work. Throughout the 1920s and early 1930s the pit, together with others in the South Wales valleys became major trouble spots in the struggle for democratic representation with torchlight processions, stay down strikes and mass meetings. The anger felt by miners and their wives towards the ‘scab’ workforce often spilled into the streets with physical violence and other forms of intimidation. Crowds would assemble on the streets and as this labour-force passed silence was observed with doffing of caps and caps until they passed out of sight (taken from the Western Mail 1935). This resentment was to remain in the village for many years.
Local Place Names
Bontnewydd The New Bridge, The Bontnewydd Hotel dates from about 1896
Maen Gilfach. The Stony Retreat, popularly known as Stormtown due to its location on an exposed hillside. It was planned and built as a Garden Village development in the 1930s.
Gelligaer. Fort in the Grove, a small Roman fort was built here in the 1st century A.D. to guard the road from Cardiff to Brecon.
Shin rug. Referring to early oat milling in the district the word is a corruption of Eisingrug, eisin meaning husks and crug meaning a mound or heap.
Ffaldcaiach refers to an ancient animal pound in the direction of the river Caiach part of the boundary in Norman times.
Llancaiach Fawr. Originating from the name Glancaeach meaning Caeach Riverside. This large farm house is situated on the southern outskirts of Trelewis and is possibly the best example of an Elizabethan mansion in the South Wales valleys. King Charles 1st is reputed to have stayed overnight (4-5th April 1645) as the guest of Colonel Pritchard during the Civil War